Cameron Kelly – “I Was Able To Be Honest With Myself”
Cameron Kelly, a Dj born in New Orleans in the late 70’s, started his journey as an audiophile at the very young age of 4 when he was given his first phonograph. He soon found that it was his mothers Disco 45’s that captured his ear rather than the read-along books that came with it. Having been raised by a young woman of the 70’s, a Father who had a passion for rock of the 60’s/70’s, Aunts and Uncles who were children of the 80’s, as well as grandparents from deep in the bayou’s of Louisiana – all from the heart of Dixie Land – Cameron’s rich musical history of diverse and soulful melodious taste reflected the spectrum of souls occupying the streets of his hometown, New Orleans. Check Cameron’s exclusive Q&A with S&S below.
S&S: What’s your style of music? How do you describe it?
CK: House music. Disco influenced, Jazz inspired, soulful, techy and sprinkled with acid.
S&S: Who or what was most instrumental to you when it came to music?
CK: This is a tough question. It comes from SO MANY PLACES. When I was a kid, my Mother’s disco, soul, classic r&b and 80’s pop 45’s were my favorite toys. Sure, looking back now, it was mainstream stuff, like the Weather Girls (shut up,) Elton John and Kiki Dee, Donna Summer, Dianna Ross, Dionne Warwick, The Jacksons, Barry White, Smokie Robinson, Ashford and Simpson, Madonna, Janet Jackson, EDDIE MURPHY (don’t hate) ..the list goes on. Plus, my Grandparents had some records wedged in there. Mostly old cajun tunes, filled with washboards, harmonica’s and Cajun French Singers. My favorite was on the B-side of “My Ding-a-ling” an old tune by Big Joe called “Ice Man.” It’s from the 50’s and full of sexual inuendo. That WILL be a Swing House track one day (soon.) The dig came from when I was fan of British music in my adolescence to early teens. Finding 1st presses of the 1st Cure album or the Steve Sevrin/ Robert Smith collab called The Glove. Tie all that in with growing up in New Orleans. Fats Domino, Irma Thomas, The Nevilles, The Marching Bands during Mardi Gras, The Street Musicians. All of this, is the Roux that starts the Gumbo of my musical influence. Early on, at least.
S&S: What drives you creatively?
CK: Accomplishment, random thoughts, harmonics and sacrifices. When I pull something incredible off, like a horn solo that is perfectly harmonized, phrased with a 303 line and it sounds amazing, it inspires me to continue to take such risks. It makes my ears stretch a bit. It becomes normal, so the bar is reset. When I associate old punk with a punchy kick drum and it works! Amazing! If it doesn’t, then I have other experiences to work from.
S&S: How much does your audience influence you and your music selection?
CK: It depends. I am a total sucker for a crowd that likes classics. Sing-along pieces of nostalgia that bring us back to the first time I heard Monique Bingham, India or Barbara Tucker. If I have a crowd that freaks out when Sharon Pass’ first “AND I PROMISE” in “The Word is Love,” then we may visit that for a bit. Ultimately, however, the experience of a live performance from me, is my interpretation of the music. It’s a journey. You can choose to join me or not. I’m trying to make my booty shake. Your’s will follow suit.
S&S: What artists or genres do you listen to when you’re not working?
CK: A little Jazz from time to time. I’ll go into Disco and Soul. New Orleans music. Punk if I’m feeling super agnsty. Ultimately, I listen to House 98% of the time.
S&S: Do you have any favorite memories of growing up with your family?
CK: I loved watching Paw Paw cook. He would turn up the Cajun Station loud and Sing along and show me his recipes. I never understood him, but it was pretty cool. Going to the Children’s Hospital Fair was always great too. Irma Thomas and Fats Domino played to raise money for the hospital. That’s where my real love for them comes from. I feel like my soul was born there.
S&S: Is there anything you would like people to know about you?
CK: I was the awkward kid in school. In a lot of my high school years, was one of few white kids in my class and things were rough from time to time. Being gay didn’t help. This House Music thing I am so in love with and the people that follow(ed) it are the reason that I was able to be honest with myself about who I am. I am a regular guy who LOVES to spread love and good vibes to those whom I come in contact with. It doesn’t matter if my music is the vehicle for that as much as the message simply getting delivered does. House music is philosophy to me as well and I’ve devoted my life to spreading the message, especially to any young person who will listen. I feel like I failed at passing that on in the past and I have an opportunity to make up for it.
S&S: Are there any charities you are working with or excited to tell us about?
CK: Well, the NOLA HOUSING PROJECT isn’t exactly a charity as much as it is a free party, that prides itself on “Bringing Quality House Music to the people of New Orleans at Little or NO Cost to Them.” I always have friends coming through, so we have night in the Dragon’s Den, the Underground Club in New Orleans and expose people to the music Risk Free! Now, this Summer, I have worked with Eric Patten ( Strictly Rhythm, Patten Music Group) and ElektrikEventz on some Sunday Beach Parties in Pensacola, Fl. Sunday Social Florida (dot com) works with Global Music Project (dot org) in raising money “to assist with supplying musical instruments for underprivileged children who can’t afford to rent them but yet want to participate in band at school AND for wounded veteran musical therapy, as well as, music therapy for those in addition recovery programs.” I’ve played for them twice and have 2 more upcoming. They’ve even had Roland Clark visit! It’s a great thing! I’ve also had the opportunity to play for Afro Acid’s Sunday Funday out of Atlanta. They raise money, clothing and non-perishibles for Safe House Outreach (dot org.) Safehouse Outreach gives a hand up not a hand out by providing afterschool programs in 16 inner-city communities, crisis pregnancy services, rehab and job placement and assistance for the food insecure. Their last Party was full of a spectrum of people, from all walks of life, dancing together, for Love. Dj Pierre, blew my mind that day, but Ralph and Louie ( and crew) and their leadership in the Atlanta Chapter of Afro Acid, are taking love to a whole new level. I admire that entire group!
S&S: Are there any questions that you wish people would ask you?
CK: I wish people would ask more questions about the roots of our culture. I feel like everyone is caught up in cutting edge. They forget about roots. They don’t realize that without roots, there is no edge to cut.
S&S: And on the flip side of that, are there any questions or references you wish people would stop asking or using?
CK: You can never ask a dumb question, so no. I dislike the misuse of “EDM.” In the last decade, the term stopped being a blanket term for Electronic Dance Music, and became a negative connotation for POP DANCE or BIG ROOM DANCE. Let’s go back to when sub genres were simply adjectives. Like; Funky, Disco and Soulful.
S&S: What artist(s) have you been the most excited to work with?
CK: Derrick Carter, Dj Pierre, Roland Clark, Terry Mullan, Demarkus Lewis, J. Caprice, Cordouroy Mavericks, Jlettow, Karl Almaria, Andrew Emil, Sunshine Jones, 4peace, Scrubfish.. I can honestly go on for a while. I’m truly thankful that I get to work at all, let alone with all of these great people. House Music is so accessible to the average person. We can reach out to our influences and usually, they reach back!
S&S: Are there any artists that you dream of working with on a collaboration?
CK: Paul Johnson, Mark Farina, Sneak, Roy Davis Jr., Kenny Dixon Jr, Larry Heard, MAW, Kermit Ruffins, Irma Thomas, Monique Bingham, Harvey.
S&S: What can we look forward to next from you?
CK: I will continue to Push the music that I’ve been entrusted with, of course. Scratching off some bucket list acts and cities I play for/with and soon, I’ll be getting in the studio. Possibly starting my own label.
S&S: What legacy would you like to leave?
CK: I would like to leave my mark of love with everyone I encounter by connecting as many people as I can through the music. I want people to know that they should always play what they love, no matter how tough it is, because money is temporary, but making a difference through your music is food for your soul. I want to finally bring the Jazz community of New Orleans to the House Community, because I know that’s the key of opening the minds of the people of New Orleans.
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